Sarojini Naidu

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7+ Year
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Jacqueline Wilson is a hugely popular author.She has won the prestigious Smarties Prize and the Children’s Book Award forDouble Act, which was also highly commended for the Carnegie Medal. From the Hardcover edition.Let's begin with a happy ending. I sit here in the warm, waiting. I can't eat anything. My mouth is too dry to swallow properly. I try sipping water. The glass clanks against my teeth. My hand is trembling. I put the glass down carefully and then clasp my hands tight. I squeeze until my nails dig in. I need to feel it. I need to know that this is real. I think people are staring at me, wondering why I'm all on my own. But not for much longer. Please come now. Please. I look out the window, seeing my own pale reflection. And then there's a shadow. Someone stares back at me. And then smiles. I smile too, though the tears are welling in my eyes. Why do I always have to cry? I mop at my face fiercely with a napkin. When I look back the window is empty. `April?' I jump. I look up. `April, is it really you? I nod, still crying. I get clumsily to my feet. We look at each other and then our arms go out. We embrace, hugging each other close, even though we are strangers. `Happy birthday!' `This is the best birthday ever,' I whisper. It's nearly over — and yet it's just beginning. 1 I always hate my birthdays. I don't tell anyone that. Cathy and Hannah would think me seriously weird. I try so hard to fit in with them so they'll stay friends with me. Sometimes I try too hard and I find myself copying them. It's OK if I just yell `Yay!' like Cathy or dance hunched-up Hannah-style. Ordinary friends catch habits from each other easily enough. But every now and then I overstep this mark in my eagerness. I started reading exactly the same books as Cathy until she spotted what I was doing. `Can't you choose for yourself, April?' she said. `Why do you always have to copy me?' `I'm sorry, Cathy.' Hannah got irritated too when I started styling my hair exactly like hers, even buying the same little slides and bands and beads. `This is my hairstyle, April,' she said, giving one of my tiny beaded plaits a tug. `I'm sorry, Hannah.' They've both started sighing whenever I say sorry. `It's kind of creepy,' said Cathy. `You don't have to keep saying sorry to us.' `We're your friends,' said Hannah. They are my friends and I badly want them to stay my friends. They're the first nice normal friends I've ever had. They think I'm nice and normal too, give or take a few slightly strange ways. I'm going to do my best to keep it like that. I'm never going to tell them about me. I'd die if they found out. I've got so good at pretending I hardly know I'm doing it. I'm like an actress. I've had to play lots and lots of parts. Sometimes I'm not sure if there's any real me left. No, the real me is this me, funny little April Showers, fourteen years old. Today. I don't know how I'm going to handle it. It's the one day when it's hard to pretend. Marion asked me last week if I wanted to do anything special. I just shook my head, but so emphatically that my face was hidden by my hair. Cathy had a sleepover for her fourteenth birthday. We watched spooky videos and one hilarious rude one that gave us the most terrible giggles and put us off having sex for life. Hannah had a proper party, a disco in a church hall decked out with fairy lights and candles to try to give it atmosphere. There were boys too, but only Hannah's brother and his friends and a few totally sad guys in our year. Still, it was great fun. I loved Cathy's birthday. I loved Hannah's birthday. It's mine that is the problem. I just want to get it over and done with. `Are you sure you don't want a party?' Marion asked. I can

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